NFL Fantasy: Top 20 RBs + Sleepers

Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott” by Brook Ward is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

By RahimAli Merchant

If you haven’t read my previous article, NFL Fantasy: Top 15 QBs + Sleepers, you should because a lot of the players on this list will be greatly impacted by the performance of those quarterbacks, especially in the PPR standard leagues.

That first round pick you have had your eyes on all summer is right in front of you ready to run all over the gridiron. They may do so with carrying and receiving the ball. That’s why it’s important to make the right decision at running back.

I will share with you the top 20 running backs in fantasy football to help you make the right decision. Maybe I’ll even take some of my own advice this year. So let’s see where each running back ranks on the draft board.

  1. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
  2. Todd Gurley III, Rams
  3. David Johnson, Cardinals
  4. Alvin Kamara, Saints
  5. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
  6. Kareem Hunt, Chiefs
  7. Saqoun Barkley, Giants
  8. Dalvin Cook, Vikings
  9. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars
  10. Melvin Gordon, Chargers
  11. Devonte Freeman, Falcons
  12. LeSean McCoy, Bills
  13. Christain McCaffrey, Panthers
  14. Jerick McKinnon, 49ers
  15. Jordan Howard, Bears
  16. Tevin Coleman, Falcons
  17. Alex Collins, Ravens
  18. Lamar Miller, Texans
  19. Derrick Henry, Titans
  20. Jay Ajayi, Eagles

Bell, Gurley, Johnson, Kamara and Hunt are clearly the front-runners in fantasy this year, especially in PPR formats. Look for all five of them to lead the way for their teams.

For Bell, Kamara, and Hunt, there is not as much pressure which allows them to freely run through the tackles off screenplays. Each of them will take the stress off of their quarterbacks, which is good for Hunt and his young QB Patrick Mahomes.

Gurley had the best offensive performance of his young career under Coach McVay and he will be expected to do much of the same as he takes the pressure of quarterback Jared Goff once again.

David Johnson will be returning from an injury that kept him out for all but 44 snaps last season. He will have to prove that he is healthy enough to be the top back we expect him to be, but only if the new coach and quarterback let him show what he’s got.

Elliott will have a huge workload with the Cowboys this year because of the departures of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Elliott may be used more on passing downs, which means more points in PPR leagues.

Barkley is coming into a situation where they will be looking to be the best team in their division. With a focused Eli Manning and healthy Odell Beckham Jr., Barkley will have one of the best performances as a rookie. I’m talking better than what we’ve seen in the past two seasons.

Cook and Fournette both started off having excellent rookie seasons. Cook got injured in week 4 and missed the rest of the season. Fournette was banged up the entire second half of the season. We could expect the both of them to bounce back and have great seasons again. Cook is already in position to shine with the rest of explosive Vikings offense. Fournette will continue to carry Blake Bortles and the Jaguars.

Gordon, Freeman, and McCoy were also very much involved in their offense. Gordon and Freeman split the carries with counterparts like Olivier and Coleman. McCoy is the leading back and the clear workhorse of the Bills. Gordon helped led his team to several wins, but being hurt down the stretch of the season cost him and the Chargers. Expect to see him come back stronger than ever. Freeman also dealt with concussions and missed games, which allowed the Falcons to give Tevin Coleman full control. Coleman is lower on the list because of the amount of carries he gets, but in a standard PPR league, Coleman is set for another great year in fantasy.

McCaffrey and McKinnon have shown us all why they are worthy of being in the top 20. With the both of them likely taking on bigger roles, their production will also be bigger. McCaffrey has turned into one of Cam Newton’s favorite targets, and for those in a PPR league, that’s where most of his points will come. McKinnon will join the Niners and their young core to build a better situation for him. He’ll use his speed and size to break through tackles and get a lot of points for fantasy owners.

Howard and Collins were two players that had an up and down season, but they were still able to have pretty productive numbers. In a PPR league, I wouldn’t be so high on them as much as I would with their back ups, who have better catching skills, but they are both major pieces in the success of the offense. Howard put up 200+ yards with two touchdowns in several games last year and then could barely get 100 yards. The inconsistency between these two platers is an issue, but at least the teams know how to use them. Plus not every week is going to be a favorable match up.

Miller is another one of those backs who dominated on a good or decent quarterback. Last year with Watson, he was one of the top running backs in the league. That was because Watson was able to find guys like Foreman and Fuller to help spread the field and leaving space for Miller to make cuts from end to end.

Henry looks to be taking over as the primary back in Tennessee with the recent retirement of DeMarco Murray. The Titans did add Dion Lewis to the team, but with the way Henry performed in the playoffs, it is clear he’s poised to be the top back.

Ajayi will be looking to recover from a subpar season after being traded from the Dolphins to Eagles mid season. He wasn’t really asked to do much as an Eagle with LeGarrette Blount being there, but now that Blount is gone, Ajayi will be the power back and could really benefit if they do have to start the season without Wentz.

Just in case those players are taken, here are five more sleepers to consider in the draft.

Top Sleepers:

  1. Kenyan Drake, Dolphins
  2. Derrius Guice, Redskins
  3. Ronald Jones Jr., Buccaneers
  4. Joe Mixon, Bengals
  5. Mark Ingram, Saints

Drake really started to make up ground once Ajayi was traded. Drake plans to use his speed and power to add to a lot of points in either format. Drake looks to help Tannenhill ease back into the games and get their team back on the winning side of things.

Guice and Jones are both rookies on a team full of injury prone running backs, which means their time starts now. As long as they play well enough, we could see them be at the top of the depth charts for many years to come. Guice looks to help Alex Smith have another surprising year, like Kareem Hunt did for him last year. Jones will be taking the pressure off of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston, especially on the passing side.

Mixon had a disappointing rookie season, but then again his whole team was disappointing. Jeremy Hill has moved on to New England, so now it’s down to Mixon and Giovani Bernard. Bernard has proven to be a pass catching back and a good flex or bye week replacement, but how will Mixon favor? He has dropped weight and out to prove that he could be the next Le’Veon Bell.

Ingram should be one of the top 10 running backs, but the suspension has moved him out of the top. That doesn’t mean we should be passing on him in any format. Though Kamara is the pass catching back, Ingram is the workhorse that will continue to get his touches in the red zone.

I hope this helps you make up your mind on which running backs you want to draft. I will be giving you a list of receivers and tight ends to focus on drafting as well. All you have to do is continue to support and read the articles as they get posted and don’t forget to have fun doing your fantasy draft. I know I’m getting a lot of different draft ideas and I’ll have to hope it works out.

Also don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @fourthquartersports!

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7 thoughts on “NFL Fantasy: Top 20 RBs + Sleepers

  1. Any love for Rashaad Penny in Seattle? I understand it is a one man show up there and they reached majorly to take him but could he be productive or are there too many ok backs in Seattle behind a lackluster offensive line?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like Penny as a running back, but I do worry about that offensive line in Seattle. It’s been a problem for a while so we’ll see how they do this year. The Seahawks did reach for Penny, but maybe he’s going to be one of those surprise running backs we see just about every year. I wouldn’t consider Penny to be a top running back, but I think he’s definitely a good back up to have for a bye week or in case of injury. If you do pick him up, maybe he does become a surprise running back, and then you got yourself a steal in your draft.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed! Penny would definitely be a very deep sleeper. But I found myself still liking Chris Carson over him right now. I understand that Carson got hurt, but he was pretty effective during his time on the field.

        Liked by 1 person

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